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Shita kiri suzume

Katsushika Hokusai's ukiyo-e painting based on the tale.

Shita-kiri Suzume (「舌切り雀」?; lit. "Tongue-Cut Sparrow"), is a traditional Japanese fable telling of a kind old man, his avaricious wife and an injured sparrow. The story explores the effects of greed, friendship and jealousy on the characters.


While walking in the woods one morning an old man comes across a sparrow calling for help. The good natured man takes pity on the sparrow and takes it home and feeds it rice to help it recuperate. However his cruel and greedy wife cannot fathom why he is wasting their food on such a disgusting creature. However the man continues to feed it.

One day the man returns to the woods to cut wood and leaves the sparrow in the care of his wife. However his wife refuses to feed it and goes out fishing. While the woman is out fishing the sparrow eats all of the starch that she has mistakenly left out. In her rage the woman cuts out the tongue of the sparrow who then flies back into the mountains in fear.

When the man arrives home and finds out, he returns to the mountains to look for his sparrow friend. He is helped by other sparrows and finds his way to an inn in a bamboo grove where a Clan of Sparrows lives. The Sparrows are happy to see him and lead him to his friend. They dance and sing for him and give him food.

As a parting gift, they offer the man the choice of a small basket or a large basket, the man, being old, picks the small basket as it will be easier to carry down the mountain. Arriving home he opens the basket to find it completely full with treasure. However his wife finds out about the larger basket and greedily runs up the mountain to get it. She gets the basket but it warned not to open it. She does not heed their warning and opens it only to find out that it is full of monsters. In fright, she falls down the mountain to her death.


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